The St. Thomas Aquinas College baseball team overcame an early deficit to power to an 8-3 victory over Southern Connecticut State University at the NCAA Division II Baseball Tournament in Manchester, NH. The Spartans launched three homers to move on in the Winner's Bracket to tournament Game Six, facing New Haven at 7:00 pm on Friday night. SCSU moves into the Loser's Bracket, facing elimination in Friday's 11:00 am Game Four against Dominican.
STAC now stands at 39-15 overall, just one win shy of a new single-season record and the program's first-ever 40-win season. The Owls dropped to 27-15-1 with the setback and will face the harder road if they wish to capture their first East Regional title since 2011. Shout the Spartans win Game Six, they will play at 7:00 pm Saturday night against the winner of Game Five; a loss would put them in an elimination game at 3:00 Saturday against the loser of Game Three between Felician and LIU Post.
Southern Connecticut wasted little time jumping in front with a trio of runs in the opening inning. Jim Palmer's liner glance off the glove of second baseman Nick Lucchese for a leadoff hit, Nick Lamberti grounded a single to right, and Tyler Criscuolo's sacrifice was fielded quickly by STAC starter Frankie Moscatiello, but his attempt to get the lead runner was dropped by third baseman Anthony Shkrelja, loading the bases with none out.
Greg Zullo walked on a close 3-2 pitch to force in the first run, and Kyle Hart followed with a sac fly to make the tally 2-0. With first and third and two out, the Owls added a run when Zullo was intentionally hung up between second and third, allowing Criscuolo to score for a 3-0 advantage.
Moscatello stranded bases loaded in the 2nd before settling in, and control problems by SCSU starter Cole Bryant helped the Spartans get on the board in the bottom half. Anthony Shkrelja led off with a walk and Giovanni Dingcong was grazed on the helmet by a pitch, only confirmed after an umpires' conference, to set the table. Mike Morgan grounded out to advance the runners, and Juan Adorno brought in the run on a grounder with the Owls infield back to make the score 3-1.
STAC's power came to the fore in tying the game in sudden fashion in the 4th, starting with Dingcong crushing Bryant's second pitch for a homer to deep left. Morgan bookended that with a full-count shot to right, drawing the Spartans even. The high seed had chances to take the lead, but Joey Pena's double-play with first and third and one out ended that rally, and Bobby Morse was thrown out at home trying to score on Anthony Shkrelja's one out single in the 5th. The Spartans proceeded to load the bases but could not score, keeping the game tied.
Despite dancing through seven hits and five walks over his first five innings of work, Bryant kept the Owls from falling behind until the 6th. With one out, Chris Ruiz, after bunting for a foul strike earlier in the at-bat, crushed a deep homer to center, giving the Spartans their first lead of the day at 4-3 and ending Bryant's day in favor of reliever Griffin Bremer.
Bremer, normally a starter, struggled from the pen, walking Pena, yielding a perfect bunt single to Lucchese, and walking Morse to load the bases with still one down. Shkrelja came up big with a two-run double into the left field corner, and Dingcong made the tally 7-3 with a sac fly. The inning did end on a bizarre note when, with Morgan at bat, Shkrelja, leading from third, grabbed a foul ball and was ruled out for interference.
To his credit, Moscatiello shook off his early difficulties, giving way after allowing just one earned run on five hits over his six innings of work. Chad Sinko worked a scoreless 7th, and the Spartans tacked on when a leadoff walk, steal by Mark Shkrelja and throwing error by catcher Mike DeMartino, and a sac fly by Greg Dawber opened an 8-3 cushion.
Chris Pennell shook off a leadoff walk to keep SCSU off the board in the 8th, and Anthony Morris closed out the victory with a scoreless 9th. Moscatiello improved to 9-1 on the season with the win, while Bryant fell to 8-2 with the loss.
2017 NCAA Division II Baseball Championship - East Regional
hosted by Southern New Hampshire University
Penmen Field, Manchester, N.H.
May 18-22, 2017
Thursday, May 18
Game 1: (3) St. Thomas Aquinas 8, (6) Southern Connecticut 3
Game 2: (2) New Haven 5, (7) Dominican (N.Y.) 2
Game 3: (4) LIU Post 4, (5) Felician 2
Friday, May 19
Game 4: Dominican (N.Y.) vs. Southern Connecticut -- 11 a.m. (loser eliminated)
Game 5: LIU Post at (1) Southern New Hampshire -- 3 p.m.
Game 6: New Haven vs. St. Thomas Aquinas -- 7 p.m.
Saturday, May 20
Game 7: Game 4 Winner vs. Game 5 Loser -- 11 a.m. (loser eliminated)
Game 8: Game 6 Loser vs. Felician -- 3 p.m. (loser eliminated)
Game 9: Game 5 Winner vs. Game 6 Winner -- 7 p.m.
Sunday, May 21
Game 10: Game 8 Winner vs. Game 7 Winner -- 12 p.m. (loser eliminated)
Game 11: Game 10 Winner vs. Game 9 Loser -- 3:30 p.m. (loser eliminated)
Monday, May 22
Game 12: Game 9 Winner vs. Game 11 Winner -- 12 p.m. Recap | Highlights
Game 13: Game 12 rematch* -- 40 minutes after conclusion of Game 12
* Game 13 only necessary if Game 11 Winner wins Game 12